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State of the Union

Interview With Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC); Interview With Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD); Interview With U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired September 03, 2023 - 09:00   ET




DANA BASH, CNN HOST (voice-over): Not buying it. New polls show President Biden facing a tough reelection fight.


BASH: Yet most Americans say they're not feeling the benefits. Is it time for a new approach? Fresh off a critical trip to China, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo joins me in moments.

And storm warning. 2024 politics intrude on hurricane relief efforts, as Congress braces for a potential disaster of their own making.

BIDEN: I can't imagine Congress saying, we're not going to help.

BASH: Can lawmakers stave off a shutdown when they return to D.C., all while dealing with new questions over leadership?

GOP Senator Mike Rounds will be here.

Plus: Breaking ranks? With abortion rights a 2024 flash point and red states piling on restrictions, I sit down with a Republican who has a warning for her party.

REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): I think they're walking the plank.

BASH: GOP Congresswoman Nancy Mace on that and much more ahead.


BASH: Hello. I'm Dana Bash in Washington, where the state of our union is like a burger on a Labor Day grill. The 2024 campaign is heating up.

Happy Labor Day weekend.

The sprint to the Republican primaries is kicking off in earnest. Despite four indictments and costly efforts by his rivals to overtake him, a new CNN poll of polls shows Donald Trump has an even wider lead in the GOP primary. And in a warning sign for President Biden, a head-to-head matchup

found voters evenly split between the two men. Electoral politics followed Biden Saturday as he toured hurricane damage in Florida. Governor Ron DeSantis refused to appear alongside him, though Biden said the two had been in frequent touch about relief efforts.

The president is also facing voters' persistent doubts about the economic recovery. His commerce secretary just returned from a trip to try to smooth strained relations with China, as investors worry an economic slowdown there could drag down the world's economy, but it's not clear whether China will commit to taking any action.

The U.S. wants them to lift restrictions on tech manufacturing. Other issues are addressing unfair trade practices and intellectual property concerns.


BASH: Here with me now, straight back from her China trip, is Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

Thank you so much for joining me.

You are the fourth Cabinet member to visit China this summer. You said the biggest accomplishment of your trip was a commitment to communicate more.

So far, it seems like these trips have resulted in few substantial, tangible results. So, when should Americans expect to see concrete actions from China to fix the problems that they're facing across so many sectors of Americans' everyday lives?


Well, good morning, and thank you for having me. I think we did achieve concrete outcomes, Dana. Just to put it in perspective, I'm the first commerce secretary in more than five years to be on the ground in China. So, I think we have to be realistic about what we can and can't accomplish on a first visit.

Prior to getting on the plane to head over to China, I spoke with more than 100 business leaders myself in the U.S. across a range of industries. And I asked -- and I spoke with labor leaders, and I asked them, what should I be trying to get done here?

And, by far, what they said was open lines of communication so we can do the business of resolving issues. And so that's what I was able to accomplish, which I think is very significant. If you can't talk in a structured way about real commercial issues, you have no chance of solving these issues.

And, furthermore, as you well know, what happens when you don't communicate is, you can spiral into greater tension and even conflict, because there's misunderstanding and miscalculation. So, I am -- I'm an optimist, but a realist. I think we accomplished a great deal, and now we will see if we can get to work with China and have them resolve some issues.

BASH: So, now that you have the dialogue, which you are calling a concrete result, what leverage are you willing to use through these new open lines. Of communication to get China to take tangible, concrete actions, the one that the U.S. and American companies are demanding?


RAIMONDO: I think the greatest leverage, to use your word, is that it's in the U.S. interest, it's in China's interest, indeed, it's in the world's interest for the U.S. and China to have a stable and significant commercial relationship.

And I will say I met at the very high levels of the Chinese government, including the premier, and they recognize that. We have plenty of tools in our toolbox, in my case, export controls, outbound investment screening, tariffs, countervailing duties.

We do have sticks, if you will. And we are very ready, willing, and able to use those as necessary.

BASH: Some Republicans, I know you have seen, have been critical of your trip, especially in light of the fact that the Chinese hacked your e-mails just weeks before you went.

I want to read a quote from Senator Joni Ernst, who said -- quote -- "China's veiled attempt to indicate it is open for business is a Hail Mary to save its struggling economy, not an olive branch of friendship. The Biden administration must stop taking the bait. No one should realize this hostility more than Secretary Raimondo, who was hacked by the CCP, but still traveled to our greatest adversary's own turf to negotiate."

How do you -- how did you respond, first and foremost, when you were talking to the Chinese about the fact that they hacked your e-mails? How did they respond?

RAIMONDO: So, I was very clear, direct, and firm in all of my conversations with my Chinese counterparts. I didn't pull any punches. I didn't sugarcoat anything. And no one is. More realistic than I am about the challenges.

As it relates to the hack, I brought it up. I said, we know what's going on. That erodes trust. And I wanted to be clear with them that we aren't foolish. We aren't closed eyed to the reality of what they're trying to do.

BASH: How did they respond?

RAIMONDO: That being said -- you know, they suggested that they didn't know about it and they suggested that it wasn't intentional.

So -- but I think it was important that I put it on the table and let them know and let them know that it's hard to build trust when you have actions like that. But I think, here's the real point for me. What value is there in not

talking? We know for a fact that not talking leads to escalation, miscalculation and misunderstanding, which is bad for the American people, it's bad for American workers, it's bad for our national security.

I do not accept the premise that talking and communicating is a sign of weakness. I think there's potential value in direct communication. I went there to stick up for American workers and businesses. And that was a message that they heard.

Now, whether they choose to take action is, of course, up to them. But not talking, I think, only leads to escalation.

BASH: I want to ask about another big issue inside this agenda, which is, the U.S. has been trying to prevent companies from working with China to make semiconductors.

They, of course, are used in everything, from cars to cell phones to televisions. But your administration is facing some criticism that you're undermining your own rule by giving some major companies carve- outs. Those carve-outs expire next month.

Are you going to allow these companies to continue to do business with China?

RAIMONDO: So, again, I want to be very clear about what our policy is and what it isn't. And I'm not going to preview here any decisions that we may make -- that we will make in a month or so.

No one ever said we want to decouple from China as it relates to semiconductors. We ship billions of dollars of semiconductors every year to China. That is good for the American economy and American and businesses, and we will continue to do that.

Those are chips that are readily available around the world that are almost a commodity at this point. What we are going to do and we will not compromise on is preventing the sale of our most sophisticated, most powerful semiconductors to China, which China wants for its military.

And so, again, this is a complex relationship. It really cannot be boiled down to oversimplified talking points. And so we -- I am -- no has been tougher -- no commerce secretary has been tougher than I on China.


Almost a third of the companies from China on the entity list have been put there under President Biden's administration and my leadership at Commerce.

However, we want to have a narrow line around what is national security. You can't use export controls for economic advantage. So, anyway, we're never going to sell China our most sophisticated, advanced A.I. chips, which they want for their military. But, of course, we will continue to do business with them as it

relates to less sophisticated, more commodity-like chips.

BASH: I understand you're not going to make the announcement right now. Has the decision been made on whether to continue these carve- outs for these companies?

RAIMONDO: We're still doing the work.

BASH: I want to ask more broadly about the economy.

There's yet another poll that came out last week that shows President Biden is heading into his reelection bid with his economic approval rating at just 36 percent. Americans just aren't giving him credit for economic growth, and that's a consistent problem for him, as I'm sure you know.

You were an elected official as governor of Rhode Island before coming into the administration. You understand the importance of not just making policy, but communicating policy.

Why is the message that you all are pushing on the economy turning around not getting through?

RAIMONDO: So, I'm smiling because I am no longer an elected official.

But I will just say, the facts speak for themselves on this one. I think the president has done a fantastic job on the economy. Jobs numbers came out today, exactly what we want to see. That's what campaigns are for. The president and his team will run, I have no doubt, a spectacular campaign, tell the story, and Americans will make their decision.

But I can tell you, from my own experience as a politician. I was constantly confronted with the exact same question, which is to say, I never had through-the-roof popularity, but always won elections convincingly.

And so at least I'm not troubled by that, as a former politician. But more important in my current role as commerce secretary, when I look at this jobs report, increased manufacturing jobs, increased investment, more resilient supply chains, Americans are working, wages are up.

I just feel that it's clear that Bidenomics is working for the American people.

BASH: Before I let you go, I want to ask you about the issue of abortion, because, in Alabama, which has one of the strictest anti- abortion laws in the country, the attorney general says he has the right to prosecute anyone who helps a pregnant woman travel to get an out-of-state abortion.

As the commerce secretary, what can or should the Biden administration do to stop that?

RAIMONDO: So, let me say, this is obviously not an area that I'm focused on as commerce secretary.

I'm very proud of the president for standing up for women and women's access to health care. And I will tell you, as a business issue, the moves that Republicans are making are wrongheaded. Apart from the fact that women deserve full access to the full range of health care that they deserve, businesses aren't going to want to do business in states that are hostile to women.

And so I think that a very poor decision just from a business matter, right? Businesses want to do business in places where there's top talent and in places where you can get women to work in -- the best, most talented women to work in businesses.

And I think that they're going to see these draconian, wrongheaded actions as it relates to reproductive health care are going to backfire as it relates to their ability to attract talent and attract business.

BASH: OK, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, thank you so much for joining me.

RAIMONDO: Thank you.


BASH: And up next, GOP Senator Mike Rounds joins me to respond, plus the looming problems facing Senate Republicans when they return this week.

Then: Is their party's primary race over before it begins? We're going to dive into the latest polling coming up.



BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.

Senators coming back from recess this week will face two big questions: Can Congress avert a government shutdown and is it time for them to reassess Mitch McConnell's leadership role after another on camera freeze renewed questions about his health?

Republican Senator Mike Rounds joins me now.

Thank you so much, sir, for joining me, especially on a holiday Sunday.

I do want to start with Leader McConnell, that scary moment where we saw -- as I mentioned, where we saw him freeze again in public.

You said that you do expect him to be straightforward and level with the Republican Conference when you all get back this coming week. What questions -- do you have for him?

SEN. MIKE ROUNDS (R-SD): Yes, I spoke with Mitch yesterday afternoon and told him I was going to be doing an interview, and I wanted to personally touch base with him before I did that.

And he was in good shape. He was direct. He said he fell. He said: "I had that concussion." And he said: "They warned me that I would be lightheaded in the future and that I have got to be aware of it." He said: "It happened twice." He said: "It just so happens I'm doing it in front of reporters."

But he felt good yesterday. He said he's got to watch his hydration levels.

Dr. Monahan, who is also my physician there at the Senate, he's sharp. He says it exactly the way that it is. And if he says that Mitch is ready to go, then Mitch is ready to go. But Mitch will come back in front of us, and he will discuss it with the entire team. He's been busy. He's been working around his own state.

But he's also been doing the fund-raising that is required of a leader. And I think that's been a big job for him as well during this break.

BASH: So -- so he told you that it was a result of the concussion that he had. Did he give you any more information?


And does he need to be more clear, not just with your conference when you all meet this coming week, but with the American public, particularly his constituents in Kentucky?

ROUNDS: Mitch is sharp, and he is shrewd. He understands what needs to be done.

I will leave it up to him as to how he wants to discuss that with American public. But there's no doubt in my mind that he is perfectly capable of continuing on at this stage of the game. And he's got a good team around him. He's done a good job of developing that leadership team. They have been supportive of him.

During the time in which he was out of the center for a while, the team did a great job.

BASH: Yes.

ROUNDS: My seatmate, John Thune here in South Dakota, picked up the reins and worked it well. And he had a great team around him as well.

So I'm not worried about that at all. We have got a good team in place, and Mitch is there, and I think Mitch will be able to answer any questions that may come up.

BASH: So you're comfortable with him staying on as leader?

ROUNDS: Oh, yes, no question.

And, look, there's a lot of folks out there that would like to see him go, but that's because he is a very capable leader. And he's one of these kind of guys that, if you could take him out of the leadership role in advance, you might end up in a better position if you were a competitor of his.

But on the Republican side, we all understand that he's good. He's good for our party. He sees the long road ahead. He looks a long ways ahead. And when all the rest of us are sitting back, he's the guy that takes the spears and the arrows, so that we don't have to.

So, no, he's the right guy, the right spot.


ROUNDS: And at this stage of the game, I think he will continue on.

BASH: I want to ask about the trip that President Biden took to Florida yesterday to assess hurricane damage.

His administration is asking for 16 billion more dollars in FEMA disaster relief, not just for Florida, but also for the tropical storm that hit Southern California, the devastating wildfires in Hawaii. Should Republicans support that funding?

ROUNDS: I can't speak for all Republicans. I'm a former governor. I can tell you that, when it comes to emergencies, that's when the government needs to be there.

So, personally, I intend to take a look at what they're requesting, but I'm inclined to support it. And the reason is, is because, look, constitutionally, we have a responsibility for our national defense, but we have also got a responsibility to take care of those that are most in need during an emergency situation.

People judge us as to how we respond in those emergencies. And a serious emergency like what you saw in Florida or in Hawaii, those are issues that all of us should come together on. And that's something that the leader -- the president has to take a leadership role on.

But the rest of us have to be supportive in making sure that the resources are there for those that are most impacted during a time of need.

BASH: Speaking of government spending, as you well know, there is a looming government shutdown now just four weeks away. President Biden wants to stop gap funding bill.

It's not clear whether your fellow Republicans in the House are going to support that. Should they?

ROUNDS: Well, to begin with, the Senate has, for the first time since 2018, we have passed all 12 of our appropriation bills out of the Senate Appropriations Committee. They're ready for floor action.

That's a great step forward on the Republican -- or on the Senate side. And this is on a bipartisan basis. We have those coming out of the Appropriations Committee. Now the House has got their own process in place. I'm not going to comment right now on the process. I think Speaker McCarthy should have the independence to be able to make and negotiate with his team on that side and to bring together enough votes to pass it.

What we do know is, is a government shutdown is not good for anybody. We want to avoid that. And that means Republicans and Democrats are going to have to come together to get a consensus in divided government. Let's not have a government shutdown, but let's begin the process of talking about our spending.

And spending -- we have been spending way over what we have been bringing in for a long time. It's not going to get fixed overnight. But we should be making some positive steps in the right direction to start slowing down the spending. And we have got to start bringing back the revenues back into government again because of a growing economy.

That's got to happen as well, or we will never get this under control.

BASH: Senator, you heard the commerce secretary, Gina Raimondo, talking about trip to China, touting the progress she says she made on establishing channels of communication.

What's your reaction to that?

ROUNDS: Well, I have heard the secretary speak on several different occasions, and she is correct when she says that dialogue is very important and that we should be talking as much as we can.

But you also have to take the reality into account that it does not appear that the Chinese communist government necessarily wants to do more than simply talk. Actions are critical. And, at this stage of the game, the Chinese government does not seem to be too concerned about what could happen to their economy if they are not willing to bend some of the rules that they most certainly have put in place.


And let me just give you an example. 2017, their version of Congress passed what they call the national intelligence law. Two of the sections of that particular law are extremely dangerous.

The first part was -- I believe it's Section 7 -- basically requires that any company that is registered in China or that does business in China must cooperate with their national intelligence agencies, and they have to keep that cooperation secret.

But, furthermore, Section 10 of that same code requires that if those same companies come outside and they're doing business out of China, that they have to -- particularly the tech companies, that they have to provide users' data to the Chinese Communist Party.

That's wrong. And that's one of the biggest issues that we have got right now in dealing with this particular government in China. It's not that we don't want to be on good relations with China, but it's a two-way street. And, right now, it's only running one direction.

BASH: Senator, I want to turn to the 2024 race. Donald Trump is set to face four separate criminal trials for 91 alleged felonies.

This weekend, CNN released a new poll of polls that shows the former president far and away the front-runner; 58 percent is where he stands right now in that poll of polls.

If Donald Trump is convicted of a crime, could you support him as the Republican nominee?

ROUNDS: I'm pleased to say that I am supporting Tim Scott. And there's a reason why I'm supporting Tim Scott.

Number one, he's a guy that will unite the country. Not a lot of people know him yet, but he's a guy that you can trust. He's a guy that you will never be embarrassed about supporting. I want to be able to tell my kids, when they -- when they're there now or my grandkids, that I supported a guy who I thought would be good for the entire country.

Tim Scott's my guy. I'm going to stick with him.

BASH: Right.

ROUNDS: I think he's the best in the field. And he's the -- that's the direction that I want to see go.

He's only got 3, 4 percent of the popular vote right now, but he's working behind the scenes. He's got resources in the bank.

BASH: Right.

ROUNDS: I think he's going to be able to make the appropriate moves, and I think he will do a good job in the debates coming up, as more and more people take a look at him and see what he can do.

BASH: I appreciate that you are a supporter of your colleague Senator Tim Scott.

But if Donald Trump is the nominee and if he is convicted of a crime, could you support him?

ROUNDS: I'm hoping truly that we get to the point where I don't have to make that type of a decision.

BASH: But what if you do?

ROUNDS: For me, personally, I was there -- I was there on January 6. I saw what happened. I'm not happy about what happened. I was not happy with his performance on that particular day.

So, for me, I'm hoping that we're going to be able to look at other candidates. For mine, it's Tim Scott. Tim is the guy that I think can unite this country. And, once again, I'm going to come right back down to it. He's not well-known right now. BASH: Yes.

ROUNDS: So he's not polling as high as some of the other folks are, but we need to bring this country together. Tim Scott's the guy that can do it.

BASH: And, again, I appreciate that you're sticking behind the guy that you supported, but he is so far behind Donald Trump right now. It's very early, but he's very far behind.

ROUNDS: Long way to go yet, Dana.

BASH: So, I understand. I definitely understand.

ROUNDS: Long way to go yet.

BASH: Let me just ask you one other question on 2024.

If, again, Donald Trump is the nominee, could he beat Joe Biden in 2024?

ROUNDS: We don't know. We don't know.

That's one of the concerns that a lot of people have got, me as well. It's the reason why I think, if we bring in a uniter, rather than a divider, I think we have got a better shot at doing what's right for this country long term. And that's what I want.

Look, right now, Joe Biden, I know he calls Bidenomics. Let's take a look at what it does for people that actually have to live with it. South Dakota is a good example.

BASH: Yes.

ROUNDS: From the time that Joe Biden took office until right now, living expenses for an average household in South Dakota are up $917 a month. That's over $11,000 more in living expenses per year.

Across the entire country, it's about $912 a month, well over $11,000 a year.

BASH: All right.

ROUNDS: Energy prices are up. Gas prices are up over 54 percent.

That's something that we have got to do something about. And you can't do it with this approach to the economy.

BASH: All right, Senator, we're out of time. I really appreciate you coming on. Thank you so much.

ROUNDS: Thanks, Dana. Bye-bye.

BASH: Up next: Ron DeSantis blows off President Biden. We're going to explain after a quick break. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)



QUESTION: Are you disappointed that the governor didn't join you on your visit today and that this handling of your visit makes it seem like politics is getting in the way of your joint response to this crisis?

BIDEN: Well, no, I'm not disappointed.

He may have had other reasons, because -- and -- but he did help us plan this. He sat with FEMA and decided where we should go, where would be the least disruption.


BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.

That was President Biden in Florida yesterday. He went to tour damage from Hurricane Idalia. As you just heard, Governor DeSantis did not join him.

My panel joins me now.

Kate Bedingfield, you worked for Joe Biden for a long. That was actually -- he could have taken that question in a whole other direction. It was quite gracious.


I mean, he's not somebody who's going to use a moment where people are hurting, where they have lost their homes, where the community is struggling...

BASH: But this isn't about the people. It's about the governor.

BEDINGFIELD: ... is struggling to attack someone, even somebody that he may feel frustrated, participated in all the buildup of setting the event -- putting the event together, and then didn't want to show up, for, frankly, political reasons.

We can call it what it is. He's struggling in a Republican presidential primary and didn't want to stand next to Joe Biden. And that is -- I think that's unfortunate. I think that's small. I think it's petty.


And I -- most importantly, politically speaking, I think it's a mistake. I think what people tend to miss, particularly in this -- what feels like this incredibly hyperpartisan environment we live in, is that most people who are just going about their lives in the country actually want to see unity. They want to see a sense of people working together. They want their

leaders to work together in the way that, frankly, they're expected to when they go to their jobs.

BASH: Yes.

BEDINGFIELD: So, for DeSantis to miscalculate on that, I think, is indicative of the larger political problems he's having, but I think is also -- is just disappointing in this moment.

BASH: Was it a miscalculation, or was that the right political move for DeSantis?

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it was a miscalculation, because the last time Florida had a hurricane, DeSantis worked very well with President Biden and got a lot of plaudits for it, as he should have.

And, in this case, we see a few things, one, Florida politics rearing its head. We could have had four people from Florida running for the Republican nomination, so Rick Scott praising Joe Biden wasn't just about potentially hurricane relief.

And, also, it sets up this whole question of, well, Chris Christie hugged Barack Obama, and that hurt him. It's going to be very easy, if Chris Christie's on the debate stage near Ron DeSantis next time, to say: I'd hug anybody to help New Jersey. Why wouldn't you stand next to the president?

Very easy to draw that contrast.

BASH: Also, Chris Christie, when he hugged Barack Obama, wasn't running for president. But that's a whole different thing.


BASH: Can you just -- go ahead?


BASH: Please.

JENNINGS: The only thing that people care about is whether the response is working correctly. And everybody in Florida agrees the response from the federal and the state government is working exactly as it should.

Ron DeSantis has a long history of getting these hurricane and emergency situations correct. A photo-op is not going to change that. Are they doing the job they're supposed to do? Absolutely.

FAIZ SHAKIR, FORMER BERNIE SANDERS 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN MANAGER: As a native Floridian, I would want him focused on this.

I -- fine, you fixed Sanibel Island, as you mentioned last time, and the Biden administration came in and helped make that happen. One of the reasons that that worked is because it looked like the government gave a damn and was involved in that from A to Z.

Now you see him dialing out, say, I got other interests. I got a presidential campaign to run. I got other things on my mind.

And it looks to the American public and to Floridians like, hey, is this a priority for you? If the president comes, just show respect and say, hey, I'm going to work with you and get this done. We may have our disagreements.

But why is that so hard?

BASH: As you answer, I just -- you got to talk about the Rick Scott of this all.


BASH: I know this is like deep in it, but it's such intrigue.

This is a Republican senator from Florida. Obviously, he has his differences with DeSantis, which is likely why he's there, but he also has big differences with Joe Biden.


BASH: The fact that he wanted to show up?

JENNINGS: Yes, look, there's always know things at play here.

But as it relates to DeSantis, I just can't even begin to imagine how somebody would assume or argue that a photo-op is somehow different or necessary to the absolute job that they're trying to do. Everybody in Florida says this thing is going well.

Biden and the FEMA have done fine. DeSantis has done fine. I...

BASH: Let's talk more broadly about the 2024 campaign.

I mentioned this with Senator Rounds. We have a poll of polls that CNN released this weekend. Donald Trump is even further ahead than he was before, 58 percent. Ron DeSantis, we were just talking about, I mean, not even close, 16 percent. And then it goes down to single digits from there.

Vivek Ramaswamy was sort of the standout guy after the debate a couple of weeks ago, in large part because he took sort of the harpoons because Trump wasn't there and also because he's been trying to of what he thought was a performance that was very buzzy. Let's just say that.

He was on the road in Iowa this past week. Our colleague Kyung Lah was with him. And he was very blunt about how he views his place in the GOP.



RAMASWAMY: I'm using -- I'm using the Republican Party as a vehicle to advance an America first agenda, but I have a true distaste for professional politicians, wherever they come from.

So, I sort of cringe a little bit when we frame everything in terms of partisan terms. That's not how I see it.


HEYE: That is as Trumpy an answer as you can get without the kind of more bloviated rhetoric that comes with Donald Trump.

That's the core of Donald Trump's message. And as Vivek has tried to emulate Trump in so many ways, it's not surprising that he's saying the quiet part out loud, not a traditional Republican, doesn't really care about the party. This is all a vehicle.

And as we have seen people running more and more for office to become famous, this is a perfect example of that.

BEDINGFIELD: Well, but the strategy isn't working, right? I mean, Donald Trump is continuing to grow his lead.

This is not...


HEYE: If your goal is to be elected president. He said, no, I don't really need to be president. I'm happy to be in second place or third.

BEDINGFIELD: But even...

HEYE: Winning is not his priority.

BEDINGFIELD: Well, but even doing that, it's essentially giving -- he's essentially giving ballast to Donald Trump's argument, which is, I think, a problem for the Republican Party, writ large.

If you're a Republican voter who's looking for somewhere else to go, you don't really have a lot of -- you don't really have a lot of other options. And so having somebody who has sort of seized the headlines for the week coming out of the debate essentially make Donald Trump's argument, it's just underscoring how much this is Donald Trump's party.


BASH: You're a party man.



BASH: How does it sit with you to hear somebody say that he's just using the party?

JENNINGS: Well, it's in fashion right now to attack political parties.

If you're an insurgent kind of a candidate, your argument is basically that everybody that came before me is wrong. All ideologies that came before me are wrong. Everything that anybody did up until this moment in history is incorrect, and I'm here to fix it all with a bumper sticker-type slogan type of a campaign.

And so I don't like it, but he's being honest about how he views political parties in America, which is that they're empty shells floating out in the ocean are just to be boarded by pirates, who may or may not have policy agendas that have anything to do with the history of that particular political party.

So it's honest, but it doesn't mean we have to like it.

SHAKIR: He's also saying the quiet things out loud when he calls black Democrats part of the KKK or whatever the hell that is, or climate change is a hoax.

I don't mind it. Hey, go ahead. Say what you really mean. Say the quiet parts out loud. Go and say it at the debate. If that's what the Republican Parties want to put forward, go for it. I don't think it's going to do well in a general election, but let's watch that circus show.

JENNINGS: By the way, on this polling, I mean, the most interesting thing about all the polls this weekend, especially "The Wall Street Journal" poll, was not the Republican primary.

Yes, Donald Trump's ahead. We have all known that. How is it that Joe Biden is tied or losing to Donald Trump, the most hated politician in America, four times indicted, and your guy can't get past Donald Trump in a survey right now? What is happening?

BEDINGFIELD: Well, let's look at polling a year out from election, first of all. And we know that national polling is not really indicative.

At the end of the day, this race is going to be one in the seven states, eight states that were decisive, that were decisive in 2020. So, let's talk about. We have seen the flaws in polling.

So -- but what you're alluding to is significant, which is that the vast majority of people who are going to vote in this election have already made their decision. You have got the Biden base. You got the Trump base. Trump fires up the Trump base. Trump also fires up the Biden base.

So, for Joe Biden, it's going to be about ginning up his base to come out and then speaking to those suburban voters, that very small sliver of the country that is undecided. That has -- he has bested Donald Trump with those voters in the past.

And I know his campaign will be focused on reaching those voters moving forward.

BASH: We are going to have to leave it there.

JENNINGS: He's -- by the way, he's fine. I watched football with him on Friday.

BASH: Are you talking about Mitch McConnell?



We had a good time watching Louisville beat Georgia Tech.

BASH: Good.

JENNINGS: I saw him Wednesday, talked to him Thursday, watched football with him Friday. He's having a perfectly fine weekend and looking forward to getting back to Washington this week.

BASH: Thank you for that report, Mr. Jennings.

JENNINGS: You got it.


BASH: Thank you so much.

HEYE: Thank you.

BASH: Enjoy the rest of your Labor Day weekend.

But don't go anywhere. Up next, we are going to talk to the congresswoman blazing her own path in the GOP, what you know and what you might not know about Nancy Mace -- after the break.



BASH: Congresswoman Nancy Mace plays an outsized role for just a second-term lawmaker.

And she's no stranger to controversy. You might not know the groundbreaking path that brought her to Congress. That's also informing a stark warning that she has for her own party.

Here's the latest in my series "Badass Women of Washington."


MACE: Yes, I can hear you.

BASH (voice-over): She's only been in Congress 2.5 years.

MACE: Good afternoon, and thank you. BASH: Yet Nancy Mace is a backbencher with a big national profile.

MACE: You have to say enough is enough.

BASH: A constant cable presence with an innate sense of how to make news as a Republican from a South Carolina battleground district.

MACE: I'm pro-life. I have a fantastic pro-life voting record. But I also understand that we cannot be assholes to women.

BASH: She first made national news at age 21 as the first woman to graduate from the Citadel Military College.

MACE: I saw the Citadel as a path for me to be able to get my life together. But also, looking back at it now, it was a place for me to prove to myself that I would not quit.

BASH: She dropped out of high school before the Citadel, she says, largely because of trauma from being raped at age 16.

MACE: When that happens, you don't blame the man that does that. You blame yourself. Were my shorts too short? Was my shirt too tight? Why did that happen? Why did that person think it was OK to attack me in that way?

BASH (on camera): Obviously, now that you are a grown woman, a very successful one...

MACE: Yes.

BASH: ... you recognize that feeling of shame, that blaming yourself is off base.

MACE: Sometimes. I mean, I think...


BASH: Do you still blame yourself?

MACE: Well, I think telling my story got me to get through that. But I will tell you, being a victim of rape, that you don't ever get over it.

Sometimes, emotionally, I'm like a 16-year-old girl. I get angry. I wear my heart on my sleeve. And I can be very vocal about things, because I still feel that shame and that anger. You know it's not your fault, but there's still shame about it.

BASH (voice-over): She went public about her rape during an abortion debate while serving in the South Carolina Statehouse.

MACE: Victims like me.

BASH: It's why she is so vocal about exceptions for abortion bans now. MACE: As a Republican woman today in 2023, this is a very lonely

place to be, because I feel like that I'm the only woman on our side of the aisle advocating for things that all women should care about.

No woman wants to go to the doctor and make the decision that she's going to have an abortion. Nobody wants that. And what are we doing to ensure that she doesn't have to make that decision? What are we doing about the foster care system? What are we doing about childcare? We're doing none of those things.

BASH (on camera): Without changing what you just described, are Republicans doomed in moderate districts like yours?

MACE: I think they're walking the plank.

BASH (voice-over): Mace certainly has eye-rolling critics who hear that and look at her voting record and see a disconnect.


She largely votes with her party, even on bills where abortion rights are at stake. She insists she's extracted changes from party leaders.

MACE: I think I get labeled a flip-flopper unfairly because of that. I have my own ideology that I believe in. I will take the vote. That doesn't mean I want to take the vote.

I have been very, very effective at trying to push the ball, not always, but doing the best that I can. I'm only one person. And,a lot of times, I'm doing it alone and by myself. I would love to have more folks join us too.

BASH: There's also the issue of the former president. On the one hand, she boasts about beating a Trump-endorsed primary challenger.

MACE: We won resoundingly. We won by almost 10 points.

BASH: On the other, she goes on TV sounding a lot like Trump's staunchest allies.

MACE: There are two tiers of justice. It's a double standard. Hillary wasn't treated the same way.

BASH: Leveling accusations about the Biden family.

MACE: Racketeering, RICO, money laundering. One of the most corrupt presidents. Made a lot of money off of Joe Biden.

BASH (on camera): Sometimes, when I hear you, I'm like, OK, that sounds like the Nancy Mace who I saw and heard on some issues. But, other times, you sound like the people who you say make you a very lonely Republican.


MACE: Well, it is absolutely lonely. It's by issue for me, and I want to call it like I see it. And, sometimes, I'm going to be over here, and then, sometimes, I'm going to be over here, and it can feel like ping-pong sometimes.

And I'm trying to be consistent.

BASH: And it's not you being a very savvy politician and going out there and pushing hard on some areas, but also doing a little base maintenance in others?


MACE: Yes, I would say I don't do anything on purpose.

BASH (voice-over): That was on display during this ad-libbed line at a prayer breakfast.

MACE: My fiance tried to pull me by my waist over this morning in bed, and I was like: "No, baby, we don't got time for that."


MACE: We laugh about it inside the office sometimes. Like, we just -- nothing happens on purpose here. It's all an accident.

BASH: Something Mace is intentional about, being a divorced mom with two teenagers.

MACE: It's very challenging. But I could not do it without their father.

And I do have tremendous guilt as a mom for being a working mom. I talk to so many women who share that. And I think, I'm not a helicopter mom. Well, I want my kids to be as independent as possible, but I do too much for them.

I hold their hand a little too much. And I'm in this phase, this season of life where I'm saying, oh, no, you're going on your own.

There's a purpose in my life to do this. And, again, I think it goes back to my early traumatic life experiences, despite the things, that I want to make women and people who've been wronged, I want to make it right. And I'm grateful that, my family, that they recognize that as well.

I couldn't do that without it.


BASH: Up next, we will remember a very special man who played a unique role in American history.



BASH: When WNBA star Brittney Griner walked off the plane from Russia last year, she singled out Bill Richardson for helping her get home.

Bill Richardson passed away on Friday. And a cornerstone of his many, many different roles in public service was helping to secure the release of Americans wrongfully detained abroad. Griner says she will be forever grateful to Richardson, and so will many others.

May his memory be a blessing.

Thanks so much for watching this Labor Day Sunday.

Fareed Zakaria is up next.